Response 2 – Closer (2.1)

by Danielle Lavaque-Manty

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Transcription by Danielle Lavaque-Manty

Voice-over narrative by Respondent (Female Voice)

0.01      In his reflection on “Closer,” Kyle’s teacher Fred Johnson notes that, although his assignment called for an integration of text with audio/visual tools, this film includes text only in its title and credits and in fleeting glimpses of books shown onscreen in the film. While Professor Johnson found these bits of text to be appropriately integrated and sufficient to the task at hand, I would take that a step further and argue that this is a case where less is more, not only because the absence of text and dialogue allow Kyle to experiment with strictly visual storytelling, as he intended, but also because it puts interesting interpretive pressure on the title.

0.43      For example, in this beginning sequence, we see only hands and a chessboard, and the word “closer.” And I wasn’t sure in fact if that word was “closer” or “closer,” given the possibility that a chessboard implies strategy, and we might be thinking of a “closer” in the sense of one who closes a deal.

1.06      Yet we soon see our focal character playing chess by himself and begin to wonder what might be going on with him. When we first encounter the only other character in the film, she looks puzzled by our focal character’s behavior: what’s he doing? His response to her attention is not particularly positive. In fact, he’s shutting her out. So by now I’m pretty sure that our title is “closer,” and that our young woman wants to get closer to this man who is not very interested.

1.40      During this scene on the park bench, we see again, as we had our fellow playing chess without a partner, now he seems to be sitting next to another reader, except that the reader is absent. It’s unclear if he’s curious about that book or annoyed by its presence.

2.02      And now the bagel scene. And this scene, to me, really changes everything about my understanding of the film. Playing chess by yourself is a little bit odd, and refusing to touch the book next to you on a bench seems slightly strange as well, but actually purchasing and buttering a bagel that nobody is going to eat and setting it across the table from yourself—that raises this whole issue to a new level for me. Whereas before I could have seen our character as merely absorbed in his own projects, and/or perhaps as reaching out, calling for help by playing chess by himself in a public place, now I begin to wonder if he doesn’t in fact have, across from him at this table, an imaginary friend.

2.52      And if that were so, we might see his response to the appearance of this young woman at his table not simply in terms of straightforward social anxiety, but rather as a kind of distress that she has usurped his usual friend’s spot. In any case, this scene shows us this couple as close as they’re going to get. They will never get closer than this.

3.24      When the young woman leaves the table, she looks disappointed. She, after all, is the one who has wanted to get closer. But for our young man, it is unclear what “closeness” would actually mean. We end where we began, playing chess alone.